Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) won in a dominant fashion the second edition of the Maryland Cycling Classic in Baltimore on Sunday. The Danish champion attacked from a five-rider front group inside of two laps to go and crossed the line with over two minutes on the chase group.
The first major selection in the tough race, made even more difficult by the hot temperatures, came with 65 miles of the 121 mile race to go as the field splintered leaving around 35 riders in the front. More aggressive racing led to a final group of six battling for the win on the first of four city circuits. The group also included Toms Skujiņš (Lidl-Trek), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Lucas Hamilton (Jayco-AlUla).
Using team numbers to their advantage, Skjelmose and Skujiņš launched multiple attacks until the Latvian managed to get free in the final 20 miles. Skjelmose waited for his moment to make his countermove when his teammate was reeled in and left everyone behind.
Powless launched his sprint with 200 meters to go to take second place, ahead of Houle. Hamilton finished fourth and Skujiņš, held on for fifth.
“I’m really happy. This race is really important for the Lidl-Trek team and to win here and show a great teamwork is really important for us and to take the win is really special,” said Skjelmose in a team statement.
“Toms was super strong. I was super strong. I think both of us could have won. Toms made a good attack and I was just waiting for my moment to attack,” added Skjelmose. “As Toms said before the race, we were just going 1-2 all the time, playing into each other well. In the end, the guys cracked when I attacked the last time.”
Powless, who finished third last year did everything he could to get the win but in the end, was outnumbered.
“It turned out to be another really aggressive hard day of racing in Baltimore,” said Powless. “Something about this course just makes the race very selective. And I think it’s probably the heat and the hilly terrain out in the countryside. But when we got to the end it was just a slug fest.”
“And yeah, I was a little bit outnumbered by a few other teams there, Jayco and Trek both came into the final circuit with two riders and I was on my own, but my team did a really good job. I think we really decided the race going around the Pretty Boy reservoir. I think we were the ones that made that real first selection. And yeah, I did one better than last year, but unfortunately, one place off of the top step.”
How it unfolded
For its second edition, the organisers returned to the 121 mile (196km) route which starts in Sparks, Maryland and includes four technical 7.5 miles (12km) finishing circuits in Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor.
Attacks came from the start on the constantly rolling terrain but five riders – David Lozano (Novo Nordisk), Oscar Sevilla (Medellin-EPM), Kyle Murphy (L39ION of Los Angeles), Carson Miles (Toronto Hustle) and Julien Gagné (Skyline) – managed to escape early on. Stephen Vogel (Project Echelon) tried to bridge solo but gave up after a few miles. The five would see their gap at three minutes before the field started to reel them in.
Lozano and Sevilla battled for the first two KOMs with Lozano taking both sprints, and ultimately winning the King of Mountain jersey.
Under impetus by the EF Education-EasyPost team, the field shattered as they went around the Prettyboy Reservoir circuit with 2,100 feet of climbing. With 70 miles to go, the break had been reeled in by a select group of around 35 riders.
More attacks continued with Israel Premier Tech trying to split the group, leaving 25 riders at the front. The group included Cofidis duo of Eddy Finé and Victor Lafay, the Lidl-Trek pair of Mattias Skjelmose and Toms Skujiņš and Jayco-AlUla’s Lucas Hamilton and Simon Yates. Julien Gagné (Skyline), Matteo Jorgenson (USA), Scott McGill (Human Powered Health), Carson Miles (Toronto Hustle), Kyle Murphy (L39ION of Los Angeles), Tyler Stites (Project Echelon), Lozano and Sevilla also made the move.
The aggressive racing continued with riders shuffling and re-shuffling, with the group swelling to 35 at one point. Riders from Lidl-Trek and Jayco-AlUla continued to push the pace until six made the split as they made their way to the first of four finishing 7.5-mile city circuits.
The final selection included the Jayco-AlUla duo of Chris Harper and Hamilton, the Lidl-Trek pair of Skjelmose and Skuijns, Powless and Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech). The six had a one-minute gap on the chasers as they saw four laps to go. Behind them, the chase was on but the connection would never be made.
With three laps to go, the six riders in the front continued to work together as their gap hovered around the 45-second mark. Harper was the first to feel the pressure and drop from the front group. With 18 miles to go, Skuijns took a flyer, forcing Houle, Powless and Hamilton to chase while his teammate Skjelmose could sit on.
Skujiņš had a 15-second lead to the group of four chasers with 10 miles to go. It seemed as if the Latvian was on his way to victory but Houle attacked and Skjelmose countered, reducing the gap. Not long after, the five were back together.
However, the front group continued to race aggressively until Skjelmose went wide to launch and managed to open up a small gap that grew from seven seconds at one lap to go to 2:20 by the time he crossed the finish line.
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